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Joan Gage Headshot

If 72 Is the New 30, Then I'm Not Even Middle-aged!

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I heard it from a radio disc jockey as I was driving to the hairdresser last week: "Scientists report that 72 is the new 30!" It caught my attention, because I just passed my 72nd birthday a month ago.

So the next time I got to my computer, I Googled that sentence and found out it didn't mean exactly what I thought. Researchers in Germany have decided that a 72-year-old human being today has the same probability of death as 30-year-old hunter-gatherers back in the cave man days.

In other words, I'd better make sure that my insurance policies are paid up.

If you read this article in the British Daily Mail online, published on Feb. 26, you will learn that the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany have published a report saying that a primitive hunter-gatherer at 30 would have had the same odds of dying as a 72-year-old in a developed country today. And the biggest drop in mortality has occurred in the past four generations.

Thanks to improved medicine and nutrition, life spans are now past 80 in some developed nations. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To illustrate, the Daily Mail trotted out a photograph of Faye Dunaway with the caption "Alive and kicking, Faye Dunaway, 72, is as healthy as an ancient 30-year-old, scientists have said."

This is interesting to me, because Faye Dunaway went to Boston University at the same time as my husband, and they used to double-date. So this is what I know about her: She was a brunette and she was a little overweight then. Here's something else: Dave, the young man she was dating, died decades ago.

I'II tell you who looks amazingly good despite being wicked old (79) and that's Jane Fonda. Did you see her at the Oscars? But then, I suspect neither Faye Dunaway nor Jane Fonda has ever led the hard-scrabble life of a primitive hunter-gatherer. And the cave men and women didn't have sun screen.

So after studying the facts behind the statement "72 is the New 30," I've learned the following:

1. I'm as likely to drop dead tomorrow as an early caveman was to be trampled by a mastodon or disemboweled by a saber-toothed tiger. In other words, very.

2. German scientists should find better use of their time.

But here's what seems to be a more cheering scientific statement about longevity that I saw on a billboard on the way to San Francisco airport recently. It said in very big letters, "One out of every three babies born today will live to be 100."

It was paid for by an insurance company.